Environment | Opinion | Politics

Alex Jacobs: Governor strikes political deal for nuclear waste






A view of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico. Photo by Leaflet / Wikipedia

Mohawk poet Alex Jacobs looks at the politics behind a deal to address a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico:
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez recently cut a deal with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to pay for infrastructure, mostly new and upgraded roads, with a $73.25 million settlement for fines levied by the New Mexico Environmental Department against Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for causing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) radiation leak in February 2014.

This was not the terrible backroom political deal that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie forced on his citizens when he reduced an $8.9 billion possible fine against Exxon Mobil for environmental damage of wetlands to $225 million. This was two Republican governors doing what’s good for them politically rather than good for their citizens and the environment.

But Martinez’s deal will pay for badly needed roads and other improvements at a time when the state’s revenues from oil and gas are down. A lot of the roadwork will happen in southern New Mexico, Martinez’s political power base. She is building up the south so the Republicans can build up a constituency to match the Democratic stronghold up north. New Mexico Democrats just elected Debra Haaland to lead the party, the first Native American woman to hold that position in the state. Her job is to basically resurrect that party, which has dominated state politics for generations.

Martinez is building up the south, and the oil and gas industry is upgrading its own Infrastructure even though revenues are down because everyone expects a return of higher oil and gas prices; and there will be new homes, businesses, schools, jobs and voters who will vote to keep these jobs. Something that has recently surfaced is the idea that New Mexico will expand its role in the nuclear power industry by providing more permanent repositories for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel rods.

Get the Story:
Alex Jacobs: New Mexico Wants All Your Hot Nuclear Waste (Indian Country Today 5/14)